Saturday, January 14, 2012

Okinawa: Camping on the Beach

For our last Christmas break (incidentally, our last real break of any sort that doesn't involve heading to the US directly afterward) we listed up a whole bunch of different options, finding that Okinawa was cheap and everything else was expensive.  Okinawa is fairly tropical (it's way off the southern coast of Japan), there could be scuba diving, and we'd see a part of Japan that we probably never would otherwise - so Okinawa it was. 

Okinawa is really many different islands but because the ferries between them are long and expensive, we did our week entirely on the main island.  The southern half of the main island (~60 miles long, oriented North-South, only a few miles wide) is mostly fairly developed, but the northern half is sparsely populated. We looked up the local attractions and found that we were mostly interested in natural beauty - skipping the pineapple theme parks.  Yes, there are at least two.  To save money we pulled out our camping supplies and picked a campsite in the middle of nowhere, based mostly on how nice I thought the scenery outside the tent would be. 

In that, we were not disappointed.  To see all the pictures, check Flickr.

We flew direct from our local airport, which was convenient, then took buses to Yagaji Beach, on the Motobu peninsula, which is not particularly close to anything.  All the tourist literature for Okinawa and the people we talked to recommended renting a car for getting around on Okinawa but we've never paid the thousands of dollars required for Japanese licenses and our US ones are no good here, so we can report from firsthand experience that you should rent a car if you go, or at least rent bikes. The buses do work, but are almost more expensive than taxis. It took us several hours to get to the campsite, but we made it before 5PM, when the owner had threatened to close up shop even though she lives on the premises and the ~$100 we paid for our six days was the biggest piece of business she got that week.  We had the place almost entirely to ourselves, and between that and the views the cantankerous owner was more of an amusement than a problem.

The ocean is also directly behind this picture.

The first night was a little sketchy, because we were relatively far from major outposts of civilization and in the off-season for tourism.  There were three small (very small) towns within walking distance of the campsite but restaurants were few in number and short in hours.  We did some walking around and settled for dinner supplies from a local corner store.  The wind seemed to be picking up so we staked the tent down fully and were glad we did because it howled and tore all night long, changing directions and introducing new and alarming sounds from the tent on on a regular basis.  I had mental images of chasing the rain fly across the beach naked in the dark.

In the morning, we checked the tent and pegs and found them unaffected.  Our tent is apparently rated for alarming levels of wind.  The island seemed to think we'd passed the test and the weather didn't come after us so strongly again.  When it was nice out, we went walking near the campsite and got some pictures.

 The area near the campsite had a bit of a post-apocalyptic vibe since a lot of stuff was closed or vacant for the off-season and there weren't so many people around. 

 We found that Okinawa has a whole bunch of mausoleums - they're everywhere.

 Found some pretty spectacular views - this can be seen a few minutes' walk from the campsite.

 The different colors of the water were kind of amazing.

 Ana put her toes in, but the water is more of a wetsuit affair than not in December.

 We got lunch at a very small local restaurant that basically only sold ramen and beer.  We ordered the crab ramen and found that the crab came in an omelet, so we had crab omelet over noodles in broth, which was actually darn good, if strange.

 Home base for the Okinawa trip

We stayed on Okinawa, based out of our tent, for about six days and had various other adventures that we'll detail in upcoming blog posts  Stay tuned!


SJFiddler said...

We just came across your blog tonight, loved the description and photos! You guys did exactly what we want to do! We'll be going later this winter, and are anxiously awaiting your next post :)

SJFiddler said...

Ah! This was all last year. I love that you guys walked 15 miles to the aquarium! Great posts, thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Just got back from NEOS outdoor store. Tent, check, matts, check, sleeping bags check, stove, pans and gas, check check check check.

Off to get more supplies. We are getting very excited.

Lamlam said...

Do you need to rent the campsite or just find a good place and set the tent for free

Lee said...

The place we camped we paid some not-very-expensive fees (I think it was about $100 for a week) to have legal permission to camp, access to potable water, showers, etc. While we have on a number of occasions just put up a tent in random places around Japan without issue and I suspect many places could be found where you would not have trouble in northern Okinawa, given the number of legit campsites available I wouldn't see much reason not to pay one for the conveniences. If you were going into one of the national parks or something I'd recommend checking the rules for no-campsite camping.

Unknown said...

Do you know if there is somewhere where we could rent a tent?

Lee said...

Don't know for sure - but there are some English-speaking camping places targeting American military personnel on Okinawa - they might either provide that service or know who does.

Oceane Massoud said...

Hi Lee,

Thank you for your pictures and comments.
How did you rent the campsite (internet phone ?) we are going in the summer so it might be busy

thank you

Lee said...

For us, we asked a Japanese-fluent friend to call the facility and make the reservation. I don't recall them having an internet-based option and if they did I'm pretty sure it would be in Japanese. There may be other places to camp aimed more directly at non-Japanese-fluent guests, especially US military families, on Okinawa, but this was quite pretty and very inexpensive.